This is a plant that is almost cosmopolitan, with a number of forms, occurring in various parts of the world. It is the bulrush of Europe that figures in much literature. The New Zealand form is sometimes put in a different species. A swamp or water plant, it is particularly common around the shallow edges of lakes and in swamps where surface water lies a few inches deep for most of the winter. It is commonly associated with harakeke or Phormium tenax, another plant occupying swampy land.
Raupo has creeping rhizomes from which are given off long, linear leaves sometimes as tall as 8 ft. The minute flowers are crowded in spikes at the top of tall, rounded stems. The upper part of the spike, which is about 3–6 in. long, consists of male, and the lower part of female, flowers.
Next to the harakeke, raupo was probably the plant most used by the Maoris. Its best-known use now is for the making of pois. The leaves were used, and are occasionally still used, for constructing the walls of whares. The starchy rhizomes sometimes served for food, and the pollen, which is produced in large quantity, was collected, mixed with water, and baked into cakes.
The genus Typha is the only member of the monocotyledenous family Typhaceae. It contains about a dozen species spread over most of the world.
by Alec Lindsay Poole, M.SC., B.FOR.SC., F.R.S.N.Z., Director-General of Forests, Wellington.